Re: Role of arXiv

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 2010 04:36:26 +0100

On Thu, 7 Oct 2010, Joseph Esposito wrote (in liblicense):

> What is the current uptake on arXiv for physics articles? Is it
> 100%, that is, are there any articles in the field that are
> published in traditional physics journals that do not appear in
> arXiv?

It varies by field. In HEP and Astro, most published journal articles
are also self-archived in Arxiv, but extremely few papers that are
self-archived in Arxiv are not (eventually) published in journals.

> Considering the centrality of arXiv to the physics community, it
> is difficult to imagine that it would ever disappear (or that
> anyone would want it to).

No one wants Arxiv to disappear, but I'll bet that within a decade
Arxiv will just be an automated harvester of deposits from authors' own
institutional repositories, not a locus of direct, institution-external
deposit. In the age of Institutional Repositories, it is no longer
necessary -- nor does it make sense -- for authors to self-archive
institution-externally. It is also a needless central expense to manage
deposit centrally. It makes much more sense to deposit institutionally
and harvest centrally.

> My understanding is that arXiv is
> funded by a combination of support from Cornell, a large
> government grant, and contributions from other research
> universities. If this funding were to disappear (I heard it was
> threatened a year or two ago), would arXiv be resurrected by the
> community?

Once all universities have IRs and IR self-archiving mandates, there
will be no need to fund repositories for institution-external deposit.
Harvesting is cheap. And each university's IR will be a standard part of
its online infrastructure.
> Finally, once again taking the centrality of arXiv to the
> community it serves into consideration, what would happen if a
> modest deposit fee were assessed--say, $50 per article?

The IR cost per paper deposited will be closer to 50c than $50, once all
universities are hosting their own output, and mandating that it be

> I am not
> suggesting that this should or should not happen; I am simply
> wondering what the outcome would be. (BioMed Central, PLoS, and
> Hindawi all charge more than this, though they provide additional
> services.) Would the number of deposits remain about the same?
> Would the number drop? And if it dropped, how precipitously?

Guess again! Once the burden of hosting, access-provision and archiving is
offloaded onto each author's institution, the only service that journals
will need to provide is peer review, and hence journals will be charging
institutions a lot less than they are charging now. (Print editions as
well as online editions and their costs will be gone too.)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Oct 08 2010 - 04:37:46 BST

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